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Pole to Pole

Day 77: Shedi to Gondar

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleI don't sleep for long. I don't think any of us does. Though I remain wrapped tight in a sheet sleeping-bag and covered up from head to toe, I cannot reconcile myself to the fetid smell from the sticky rough cloth of the mattress, the treasure trove of insects concealed within it and the presence of bodies only a breath away on the other side of the thin mud wall. Because of my protective cocoon I become very hot and push open the door to let some air in. I must have dozed, and wake to find a face peering down at me and a moment later hear the door slamming shut. When I do nod off I'm woken sharply by a peculiar, violent and inhuman sound. It sounds like a donkey having a nightmare.

I've never risen at 5.15 with less reluctance. Splash a little bottled water on my face and tiptoe to the door, only to find it has been locked on the outside. Fortunately Basil is within shouting distance. We assemble in the pre-dawn light and recount our various experiences in this most ethnic of stopovers. Angela had an armed guard in her room, though not all night, I'm assured, and Nigel's nerves of steel were shredded when a cat jumped onto his bed in the small hours. For once Fraser seems to have found nothing in his shoe, ear or any other orifice.

We set off for Gondar before dawn. The roads are straighter and in better condition than in the Sudan, but the river-beds here are not dry and consequently must be crossed with greater care.

I travel with Graham, who fills me in with the history and politics of the country as we pass through scenery which resembles the Welsh borders. He says it's a good time to be in Ethiopia, in the euphoric aftermath of the fall of Mengistu's government and just after the rains have turned the countryside green.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 77
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Shedi
  • Book page no: 165

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